Hispanic issues study to be released during DNC
Associated Press
Aug 25, 2008


DENVER - Groups hoping to bring attention to immigration, health care, education and other issues of importance to Hispanics are releasing a document calling on the next president to create a committee on those topics.

While the document doesn't offer groundbreaking information on the U.S.' fastest growing minority - education is a key issue because Hispanics have a high dropout rates, a high percentage lack health care, and immigration status is a big concern - its creators say it's still one of the most comprehensive recent studies on the issues.

The report, commissioned by Azteca America, a Spanish-language TV network, and Fundacion Azteca America, will be presented to the campaigns of Barack Obama and John McCain in September.

Luis J. Echarte, chairman of the boards of Azteca America and Fundacion Azteca, said the network and foundation commissioned the study because "the issue of immigration is very important, but it's not the only issue that concerns the Latino community."

Echarte said research shows the high school dropout rate among Hispanics is more than twice that of black students and more than three times greater than for white students. One reason, he said, is that some students who are in the country illegally are afraid they will be caught and deported, while others have to work to support their families.

One solution would be to create a more bilingual and culturally relevant education system for Hispanics, meaning more Hispanic teachers who can be role models for students, Echarte said.

On health care, the document found that about six of 10 Hispanic families in the U.S. don't have health insurance, sometimes because they are in the country illegally.

The study's other major issue is political participation. Researchers found that although Hispanics make up about 15 percent of the U.S. population, about 9 percent of eligible Hispanic voters are registered to vote and only 6.5 percent do vote.

"So all these demonstrations that you see don't have a political impact," Echarte said.

Echarte said Azteca is trying to increase many Hispanics' political awareness. He noted that some Hispanics don't bother to become US citizens after obtaining permanent residency status, thinking their status work is done and doubting that their vote would count anyway.

Others are unaware they can have dual citizenship and don't have to rescind citizenship from their native country if they became naturalized in the U.S.

"Latinos have so much to offer and so much potential, but they keep facing these consistent barriers," said Maria del Carmen Salazar, an assistant professor at the University of Denver Morgridge College of Education and one of the study's authors.

Salazar and faculty at DU's Center for Community Engagement and Scholarship used information from the U.S. Census and national research documents by the Pew Hispanic Center and other institutions to compile the report. Research topics were selected by the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute, the National Council of La Raza, the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials and other groups.

Titled "The State of Latinos 2008: Defining an Agenda for the Future," the document calls for the creation a presidential advisory commission to propose solutions to the most pressing issues affecting Hispanics in the U.S.